Pamela Hutchinson wrote a must-read piece on the BFI website titled "How the Lulu bob became cinema’s most imitated haircut." And Peter Bradshaw wrote a piece in the Guardian newspaper, "Pandora's Box review – intensely erotic silent-era classic," which called the film a "Weimar danse macabre." Meanwhile, Mark Kermode, one of England's best known film critics, had this to say.
Pandora’s Box, directed by G.W. Pabst, will open at the BFI Southbank and select cinemas UK-wide starting June 1. Among the cities where the film will be shown are London, Leicester, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dublin, and Belfast. Click through to the linked pages to see a schedule of screenings.
Today, Pandora’s Box is considered a masterpiece of the silent era and a landmark work in the history of world cinema. Its reputation is due largely to the riveting, red hot performance given by its star, Louise Brooks, in the role of Lulu. It wasn't always so.
In fact, the film received poor to middling reviews when it premiered in Berlin in February, 1929 -- as it did when it debuted in New York City in December, 1929. It also received somewhat tepid reviews when it was first shown in London in 1930, despite the fact that one of England leading film journals, Close-Up, had built-up expectations around the film. In April, 1929 the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer ran this bit.
Despite Close-Up's enthusiasm, the English trade journal, Kinematograph Weekly, expressed a certain critical reserve, stating that the picture "can hardly be expected to appeal to the average audience."
In April, 1930, when the film was shown in London, the Guardian critic noted how badly it was cut. Later, when the film was shown in August, 1930 at the Gaiety theater, Tottenham Court-road, the London Observer similarly commented, calling the censored film a "piece of work nervous and intelligent in conception, and photographically emotional, but presented, at least to the British public, in a chaotic form which reduces it from an entertainment to a study."
(I believe the critic "C.A. L." is Caroline Alice (C. A.) Lejeune. She appreciated Pabst's work, and in her 1931 book, Cinema, she noted " . . . no director on two continents has found so much personality in Louise Brooks.") References to Pandora's Box continued to surface in British publications in the 1930s, largely in reference to G.W. Pabst. The film was not forgotten, but also not that well regarded. The years passed.... Though the film was still in shambles, it was revived in London in 1957.
It would take decades for film historians and preservationists to restore it to its more-or-less original form. The many screenings taking place in England in June give contemporary viewers the chance to see the film as close to its original state as we may ever get.